World Environment Day (WED) is held every year on the 5th of June. This year (#WED2014) the focus is Small Island Developing States, which is perfect for Indonesia. The aim of World Environment Day is to stimulate awareness of environmental issues with organizations and people around the world. Talking about things that we can do for a better environment, there are tons of things to do. The easiest way to contribute to protect and preserve our planet is to doing something yourself. Start with something that always touches you every single day.
Try to focus on things that we can do individually and close to our daily lives, which reminds me of the Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik (GIDKP) or #DietPlastik movement. Have you ever heard about it? I like the idea and often read about the #DietPlastik movement. Let me introduce Tiza Mafira, the co-founder of the #DietPlastik movement who worked as a lawyer specializing in climate policy and environment based in Jakarta. Read more to learn about the dangers of plastic bags and how we can contribute to a healthier Mother Earth.
1. Talking about Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik (GIDKP) or #DietPlastik that you co-founded, how did it start? What is the aim of the movement?
It started when a group of friends and I got together a few weeks after I created the #Pay4Plastic petition on www.change.org/pay4plastic. They all came from organizations that have worked for a long time to campaign for a reduction of plastic bags. We decided to combine forces and do this campaign together, so we created the GIDKP movement. The movement aims to spread awareness to the government, retailers, and consumers that plastic bags are extremely harmful for the environment, and we should therefore use much less of it. We want the government to make a regulation to reduce plastic bag use, retailers to start actively encouraging customers to reject plastic bags, and consumers to bring their own reusable grocery bags when they go shopping.
2. Is this movement only focused in big cities that clearly produce more waste?
We’ve started for the time being in Bandung and Jakarta because that is where most of our members are located. The movement is aiming to be a national movement and we encourage interested representatives from other cities around Indonesia to start spreading the movement within their own localities. Bali and Jogja are examples of cities in which this kind of initiative has already been started as well.
3. How bad is plastic bag pollution is there in Indonesia? What kinds of impacts do plastic bags have on the environment?
It’s very bad. Plastic waste in Jakarta alone can reach up to 1000 tons per day. One person uses an average of two plastic bags a day, meaning 700 a year. Ciliwung river, which is highly polluted, is full of plastic bags in the water, cascading like waterfalls from the riverbanks, tangled in the riverplants, and embedded 2 meters deep into the riverbed soil. Try spending an hour collecting rubbish from one tiny section of the Ciliwung river and you will be overwhelmed. Of course, all this leads to flooding.
4. Plastic bags take around 500 years-ish to get degrade. How about the eco-friendly bags that big supermarkets, big stores, etc said will degrade in less than 2 years? Is it true? What kind of plastic bags should we really ‘avoid’ using. Like the black ones (kresek) for instance?
I would be very careful about trusting “eco-friendly” or “biodegradeable” bags. First of all, there are certain conditions in which they will degrade better, for example, if they are embedded in soil, which may not work so well if they end up in a river. Second, even after they degrade, they may still leave harmful particles of chemicals in the ground and contaminate our ground water. Third, touting biodegradeable bags as “the solution” does nothing to reduce our over-consumption of plastic bags in general, because the truth is we can very easily learn to live without it. Black plastic bags are the worst plastic bags of all because it is the result of several cycles of recycled plastics. You can even smell the chemicals on it when you hold one in your hand. What’s crazy is that a lot of street vendors wrap our hot food in these black plastic bags.
5. As far as I know, there are no regulations that specifically control the usage of plastic bag in Indonesia. Is there any discourse with the government to discuss policy issues related to plastic bag pollution in Indonesia?
Yes. GIDKP has started a discussion with Pemda DKI to look into regulating the use of plastic bags in Jakarta. Last year Governor Jokowi issued a Surat Seruan urging retailers to not provide free plastic bags for the entire month of June-July (during Jakarta anniversary festivities). PemKot Bandung has already released a Regional Regulation and a Municipality Regulation on plastic bags (Perda No. 17 tahun 2012 tentang Pengurangan Penggunaan Kantong Plastik), which effectively provides an incentive to store and building owners who take effort to reduce the use of plastic bags in their business. We will continue to push for more regulation.
6. Gerakan Indonesia Diet Kantong Plastik means diet on plastic bags, which I assume is to try to reduce the amount of plastic bags that we are using, right? I always refuse the small plastic bags offered to me whenever I buy something small that I can easily put it inside my bag. Weirdly, the shop assistants (normally) look at me strangely whenever I do that. What else can we actually do to reduce the usage of plastic bags besides rejecting the plastic bag that have been offered to us?
The next thing to do is to bring your own bag, so that you not only can reject plastic bags when buying something small, you can also reject plastic bags when you’re buying a lot of things! Shopping bags now come in all sorts of exciting colors and are light and easily foldable, so you can stow one or two in your bag and forget about it. When you go for an unplanned shopping spree, voila!, it’s already there in your bag. So easy. Shop assistants will probably look at you strangely, or not understand at all why you’re giving them a bag. But I’ve found that as I keep persistently doing it, the cashiers at supermarkets where I shop grow accustomed to it. Some have already heard about the movement and smile as they say to me, “Go Green ya Mbak?”.
7. Why do you really care about the environment? I know that is cliche, but I am always curious about why people found such movements.
It came naturally since I was very small, perhaps 10 or 11 years old. I just never liked dirty streets, visible rubbish, polluted rivers, and bad-smelling air. I don’t think there was a specific reason for it, but it always seemed intuitively wrong to destroy the beautiful things around us. When I grew older I understood that those beautiful things, i.e. trees, fresh air, clean water, it gives us life. I mean that we literally can’t live without it. So why would you destroy that?
Remember that nobody is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change, especially us. Indonesia is one of the countries most vulnerable to rising sea levels caused by climate change. Thousands of people could loose their homes and we will loose our coral reefs. #DietPlastik is one simple example of things that you can do to help Indonesia and in the big picture will preserve the earth.
Raise your voice, not the sea level. Every movement starts with simple things, but have faith that it will have a significant impact on the planet.
Happy World Environment Day!
This post is written as part of thematic post for the Travel Bloggers Indonesia community about World Environment Day 2014. Don’t forget to check out articles from other members of TBI (in random order):